Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts




Creative Writing and Environment

First Advisor

KL Cook


Set in the fall of 1984, The Words We Cannot Say begins after the Landry family’s move to the small college town of Durham. The Drs. Landry, Lisa and Walter, university-employed cancer researchers, have spent their careers hidden away in the controlled climate of university laboratories across the country. The Landry daughters, Diana and Caitlin, wrestle with their entrance into young adulthood as they begin high school while the usually stringent authority of their parents, now distracted by work, begins to wane. Diana calculates her infiltration into a group of girlfriends while trying to avoid David, a peculiar sophomore in her anatomy class whose fascination with death—stemming from grief due to the recent loss of his mother—Diana finds disturbing. Caitlin, whose relationship to her own body has always been tenuous, spends many afternoons home alone as the Landry parents devote ever more attention to their responsibilities on campus. This novel takes place in a single semester as the Drs. Landry adjust to the newfound stability of their positions provided by Lisa’s tenure, as Diana and David navigate high school social politics, and as Caitlin—whose story is told in short interludes, mirroring her constant relegation to the margins of the Landrys’ busy lives—struggles with the changes brought on by this latest upheaval in the move to Durham.

Copyright Owner

Shelby Rae Stringfield



File Format


File Size

245 pages

Available for download on Saturday, April 24, 2021

Included in

Fine Arts Commons